Done With Autumn….

Well that lasted about a week.  I miss summer and wish autumn would get on with it.  Yesterday was beautiful, but today it’s colder and rainy, and I’m sure the wind is pulling down all the autumn foliage just as it finally colors up here in the valley.  Here are a few spots in the garden, maybe when I look back in January the cold and ice will put it all in perspective.

The back deck in autumn

Frost is forecast for tomorrow night nearly everything still needs to come in.  Sadly enough I have less than 24 hours left to procrastinate. 

I spent most of Saturday just wasting time.  The weather was nearly perfect and the schedule was open, but 90% of the day was spent watching grass blow in the wind or birds picking through seed heads and nearly no time time was spent productively.  If we had to separate into ants and grasshoppers, I’d be all grasshopper this weekend.

October in the potager

The potager is all ready to fall apart for winter with everything dying back and going to seed.  Peppers were harvested, the rest is on its own now.

I guess I did mow the lawn on Friday.  It didn’t really need it but the mower made quick work of stray twigs and leaves which were starting to pile up and with the mower set to mulch it was not much of a commitment at all.  Also it kind of chopped up the turf clods which lay all around the back yard courtesy of Mr. Skunk.  Someone suggested I replace and tamp down all the clods before mowing… I gave him the look and said he was more than welcome to do that in his own yard.  Here we prefer to thank the skunks for their free grub removal and turf aeration services and let winter work apart the clods.

the meadow in autumn

Back behind the swingset, the meadow looks downright respectable again after a few mowings.  

Mowing the lawn takes a little longer these days now that the meadow area is back on the weekly cut plan.  To those who thought the tall grass was a reservoir of dangerous ticks and snakes and spiders this comes as a relief, but to me it’s all just part of getting the turf ready for next year’s show of spring bulbs and early summer wildflowers.  It will sprout up again just fine next spring, and ironically enough the most dangerous thing back there still remains within inches of the swing.  The bright red seed pods you see belong to the castor bean plant(Ricinus communis), and as you may know the beans are the source of the poison ricin.  Smaller children would need to be watched, but based on what a struggle vegetable eating is in this house I’m pretty confident my own kids won’t be picking beans up out of the dirt and eating them any time soon.

The tropical garden

The tropical garden just before the frost.  Not as lush as last year but the grasses are still a good 8+ feet tall, and overshadow the not-quite-as-tall-as-last-year cannas.

I may not have done much in most of the garden but at least I did pay some attention to the rock garden.  It still doesn’t have any rocks but at least the yews are trimmed.  Weird that out of all the things to do this time of year I’d be trimming up little yew meatballs, but there you have it, Saturday’s big job.  Here’s a photo from a few years ago to give you an idea of where we came from.

overgrown yew hedge

Every spring… trim the yews… I finally got so bored with it I let them go, but after a few years the neighbors started talking.

Two years ago I trimmed the yews back to within a few inches of the ground.  It was either that or remove them completely, but after the struggle of taking a single one out (so the electrician could rework the electric service), I suddenly warmed up to the idea of keeping them.  So now I have little yew nuggets along the foundation and an empty south-facing mulch bed which seems perfect for rock garden plants.  I’ve already filled most of it and it’s a constant battle to keep from doubling the size of the bed.

the rock garden

The rock garden.  You may see a single rock to the far right but for the life of me I don’t know how the name started.  -Btw the pine is Pinus densiflora ‘Burke’s Red Variegated’.  I love it. 

Eventually I’ll need to get moving if I really want to be serious about gardening again next year.  Beds need cleaning, plants need saving, things need transplanting.  There’s always plenty to do but in the back of my mind I keep figuring that cold indoor days are coming and I should take advantage of the last warm days.  That probably means doing things, but a little soaking it up doesn’t hurt either.

porch decorations for autumn

We will see how this handles a little frost.  All together I think I found about 20 of the odd little Yugoslavian finger squash once I started looking around out back, and between those and a few mums I think we’re decorated.

Tomorrow I’ll be running around.  Or not.  Most of the geraniums, amaryllis, and cordyline spikes can handle a little frost and should be ok for another week or so, so I guess it all comes down to seeing how long I can postpone the inevitable.

overwinter geraniums

Geraniums (pelargoniums) lined up and ready to come in.  Between these and a few cuttings already under lights I think I can give any geranium-loving granny a good run for her money.    

Frost will come, the garden will go to bed, and the dreams of spring will start.  I’m sure there are still plenty of perfect days to come but for now I’m dreading the end, and even worse when the clocks fall back next weekend.  I wonder if it’s too early to start thinking about snowdrops.

… haha, who am I kidding, I’ve already been obsessing about them for the last month!

Have a great week, and maybe you can find something pleasant in the soft light, beautiful colors, and crisp air of autumn 😉

30 comments on “Done With Autumn….

  1. “it’s a constant battle to keep from doubling the size of the bed.” I can believe it. Good luck with your procrastination.

  2. hb says:

    Sometimes an autumn day is so perfect you just have to be a grasshopper and enjoy it.

    Your variegated pine really is beautiful. It looks like a giant Phylica pubescens. Castor bean is an invasive perennial weed here and I’ve pulled a few from the roadside lately to try to reduce their number. Enjoyed seeing your garden in all its end of season glory.

    • bittster says:

      I’ve also seen castor beans making a weed of themselves down in Florida. They’re definitely not something that goes unnoticed, and not something you can just pull up with a trowel. I guess that’s one plus to our uncivilized winter weather!
      That Phylica is a cool thing. Just one more thing I can dream about when I’m checking out the Annie’s Annuals website 🙂

  3. Eliza Waters says:

    Gee, I thought I was a last minute Nellie, but you make even me look good – haha! Your front porch looks great. I don’t envy you this last day scramble. Mine was done over two days and I don’t have the quantity you have. Good luck!

    • bittster says:

      I moved a few things in and then hoped for the best. Most of what’s still out can handle a light frost but if worse comes to worse I’ll have a few empty planters to get creative with in May!

  4. nanacathy2 says:

    Beautiful garden.

  5. Christina says:

    Well, from all the images of your garden I think it looks better than ever this year! But I do know what you mean about spending time enjoying the last of the good weather. Yesterday was very grey here, it’s better today. I admit I like the yews before they were cut right back; you could have pruned them into a wonderful cloud formation, it would have looked fantastic.

    • bittster says:

      Our rainy summer really went far in keeping the garden lush. It was almost perfect… except for the nonstop lawn mowing!
      I also liked the woolier look of the uncut yews, they looked so much healthier and happy, but I’m just not ready to commit to endless cloud pruning. The bushes are still there though, so who knows what will happen a few years from now.

  6. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I think yews look great when they are allowed to grow huge out away from a house. They make pretty specimens. Up by the house I think you did the right thing cutting them back. Aren’t they amazing plants. They take what ever you do to them and keep on growing. The little pine tree is a nice contrast to that deep green of the yew.Go ahead and make the rock garden wider. You know you want to. It will be less to mow after all. It is good that you can take time and enjoy the last hurrah of the garden.

    • bittster says:

      There’s an upright yew which I would love to move a little further from the house and just let do its own thing. I can imagine the twisted trunk and dark hulking mass… given another 50-100 years! Who knows, maybe some year I’ll ignore my back and take a spade to it.
      There is an awful lot of grass there on the side of the house. I prefer to keep it somewhat open for access, but more bed space is always a plus!

  7. Chloris says:

    Your early autumn garden is beautiful, of course you want to linger in it and enjoy it. I love your front porch and all the squash. I was surprised to see the ricinus right by the swing, what a relief to hear your children won’t graze on it.
    I comfort myself by thinking that there is no rush I have all winter to tidy up. But getting in the tender things is an annual headache. Where to put them all?

    • bittster says:

      The squash were an unexpected bonanza this fall. They make me want to plant a whole bunch intentionally yet I’m sure when I do that they’ll sulk all summer, unlike the stray seedlings out of the compost pile.
      We don’t have the option of all winter for tidying. Once winter arrives and things are completely locked up in ice it’s off to indoor projects, and I’m just fine with that… for a few weeks at least…

  8. Linda Keck says:

    Your fall garden still looks lovely! When bringing in the geraniums and other plants; how to you avoid bringing in bugs and little pesky gnats?

    • bittster says:

      Well I kind of just cross my fingers and hope for the best! Keeping the soil on the dry side seems to help with the gnats but if things get annoying I have a sticky yellow square which I put out to trap them. If I were serious I would probably water in one of the systemic pesticides and be done with it, but I guess I’m not there yet.
      Thanks for the comment!

  9. I’m with you. On the nicest days we had recently I got very little done, just enjoyed it. It is really hard to be motivated when it is a gorgeous Oct. day. I know how many years I’ve been cutting back and caging plants on miserable cold days. That weather makes me very efficient! Love your front door grouping and all those Pelargoniums. I have one special little Pelargonium that I am hoping to get through a second winter.

    • bittster says:

      You’re right of course. My gardening efficiency also goes way up as the temperature drops. I’ve been known to plant an entire Van Engelen order in 20 minutes if the snow flurries are flying!
      I’m hoping the pelargoniums help me get through the bleakest winter nights. I like the scent and between that and the flowers they should brighten up the winter garden considerably. Maybe I’ll have to rename it the Victorian Conservatory to keep up with this new focus on old flowers 😉

  10. johnvic8 says:

    Well, that was quick. There will be spring. I promise.

  11. Jane Strong says:

    Ah … a fellow pelargonium lover. Mine never get as vibrant and large as yours, but I can leave them out all the time in winter. Here in southern California they withstand the heat better than most flowers, the thick stems can almost be classified as succulents.

    • bittster says:

      I’ve always admired how well they do out there as perennial plantings, but then again you’ve got plenty of other things which take on entirely new proportions when dank humidity and brutal winters are taken out of the equation!
      I was surprised by how well the one pelargonium did this year. I had left the mother plant out last year and restarted from cuttings and the original plant never came close to doing as well.

  12. Pauline says:

    Love your colourful porch, you are certainly going out with a bang! Lots of work at this time of year, but it is all worth it in the long run.

  13. Cathy says:

    Those lovely pots outside your porch are a real show Frank! Hope the frost didn’t damage them. Finding space to put everything for winter is tricky! We had our first frost last night and as soon as I have finished breakfast I will go and inspect the damage… The beauty of yews is that they withstand any amount of pruning! I think a rock garden without rocks is quite charming. Love that pine too. Enjoy the last days of your prolonged ‘pre-autumn’!

    • bittster says:

      We are still oddly without a harsh frost. The perennials have all thrown in the towel and are going dormant but there are still plenty of annuals trying to make the best of it. I almost wish a good freeze would put them out of their misery and move us on to early winter 😉
      I do like the ease of growing yew. It tolerates so much and still has a beautiful dark, healthy color. This is the time of year when I think the garden needs many more conifers rather than all that summer color…

  14. I like the yew nuggets. I’m familiar with what a mighty struggle it takes to remove yew roots. However, I eventually embraced the approach of just cutting them to ground level and then painting the stumps with Roundup. Seems to do the trick. Have you considered a foundation planting of Ostrich Ferns? Though I suppose they don’t exactly go with a rock garden.

    • bittster says:

      I like that approach. I’m more than fine with leaving roots in the ground to slowly decay, but I still struggle with the idea of killing a yew. For some reason yews, hollies, and rhododendrons were always considered precious around our place.
      I actually have a few ostrich ferns on the North side of the house. They struggle through dry spells but hang on just enough to return each year. A leaky faucet sure helps.

      • My feeling about yews is that there are just far too many used in foundation plantings, and also the ones in foundation plantings are generally kept so puny compared to their normal size that they need to be put out of their misery.

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